Wanted: Love and Grace

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person  ~Colossians 4:6.

Have you ever met someone who prides herself on speaking her mind? I think that phrase alone says a lot: The person who speaks what’s on his mind regardless of how it makes others feel is a proud person. I expect that she doesn’t realize that she sometimes does things that irritates others and yet they show grace to her. Why is it so difficult to bear with “stupid” people?

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ  ~Ephesians 4:15.

A lack of love is another reason some are quick to cut down others. Especially on social media, it is easy to subtly address faceless beings who can’t have feelings and so something they do or say is picked apart by another individual who has no patience with them.

I would like to submit that this kind of behavior is not boldness; many times, it is simply arrogance. By pointing out someone else’s fault (whether you name him or her or not), you are deflecting away from your own faults.

Facebook is the only social media that I am a part of, and I too see things that others say and do that I wouldn’t, but it is their page. They can do what they like on their page. I can participate or not. If I were truly burdened about it, I would send them a private message. If it’s not a burden, why not let it go?

We live in a world where many do not like confrontation. But passive aggressiveness? That’s a different story. Let’s make sure that the things we say and type are encouraging and helpful. There are times when people or situations need to be addressed, but it needs to be done with love and grace.

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Support Your Fellow Christians

But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

The above verse is one that is familiar to most Christians, but I wonder how many think about exactly what it means to “seek first the kingdom of God.” I think the most obvious interpretation of this is that we should be seeking, first and foremost, to be more like Jesus. This involves surrendering our will to His and learning what He desires of us. One area that I think is hard for a lot of people to surrender is that of finances.

With the ever-rising popularity of places like Walmart and Amazon, many “mom and pop” companies have gone by the wayside. We see fewer cottage industries because everyone knows that they can’t compete with companies that have a large enough bank account to buy products for next to nothing and then sell to the consumer for less than you or I could sell them for.

I am not saying that it is wrong to shop at big stores and save money. I like to bargain shop myself. And, if we are talking twice the price or more to order from a Christian company, my budget would probably not allow me to spend that much. However, I have found instances where the savings is only a few dollars, and this is where I would much rather support my fellow Christians or local businesses.

One reason this is weighing heavy on my heart, besides the fact that I just started my own online bookstore, is that I travel the country setting up booths to sell books for Family Renewal and Master Books. These companies spend a lot of time and money to go to conventions where people can look through the books to decide what they would like to purchase. Then many times they go home and order from Amazon or another discount seller, leaving us to pack up the inventory and take it back home. No wonder conferences are dying left and right as exhibitors are no longer covering their expenses.

What many don’t realize is that, when you purchase that really cheap product from a discounter, the creator of the product gets very little from that sale. If you buy a book on Amazon, for example, the author probably makes less than $2/book. Less than $1 in some cases. Most authors are happy to get books into people’s hands so they would rather folks buy from Amazon than not buy, but if you want to support your favorite author and help him or her to be able to continue to write and, in some cases, support their families, then it is much better to purchase directly from the author or another Christian distributor that doesn’t discount very much.

As Christians, we are to be good stewards of the funds God has given us, but we also need to pray about where to use those funds and who He desires to bless through our purchases. It is His money after all.

I Love You

I love you. One of the most beautiful phrases that you can say and yet society has distorted love to the point that, if you were to tell someone you love them, especially outside of your immediate family, they might become uncomfortable or look at you as if they’re trying to figure out what you want from them. The sad thing is that, because of this, many people feel unloved. Many moms and dads never even tell their children they love them because they are not accustomed to doing so, and they assume that their children just know somehow. I believe one of the reasons suicide is rampant today is because of this lack.

The New Testament is full of verses instructing us to love each other.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another (John 13:34).

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God (1 John 4:7).

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law (Romans 13:8).

There are plenty of ways to let others know that you love them and, if you had to choose between telling a person or showing them, I strongly recommend showing them, but I would encourage you to let someone know that the reason you serve them, pray for them, spend time with them is because you love them. Not because you are obligated but because Christ has placed a love within you that flows to those around you. Try it out this week. If it’s someone that you have never told before, they may not know how to respond, but that may just be the person that needs the reminder that they really are loved.

Be Faithful

“Nothing that we do for God is small.” I read these words from D.L. Moody this morning. It reminds me of the song that says, “Little is much when God is in it.” I need to be reminded of this sometimes. OK. I need to be reminded quite often.

I turned 45 a couple months ago, and it hits me at times that I have more than likely lived over half my life already. Accompanied with that thought is wondering if I have done anything to impact people’s lives and help them to draw closer to the Savior. If I haven’t, then my life has been a waste, and I do not want to end my life that way.

I know I’ve written on this before, but I expect that I am not the only one who needs these reminders. You do not have to be a singer, a speaker, a writer, or a pastor to be used by God. You just have to be faithful. Faithful to live a Godly life, faithful to your family, faithful to the calling God has placed on your life (not someone else’s). If you do that, you will most likely reach more people than you can imagine. You may not even know you are doing so. I will also counter that if you are not living a faithful life, then all the good you think you are doing, you are probably not.

Faithfulness is one of the things that I admire most in a person, but I don’t often tell the people I admire that I do so. I guess that’s something I need to work on.

If you are discouraged today or are caught in the trap of looking up to others while feeling insignificant yourself, look up. Examine your life in the light of God’s Word. If you are living a life of obedience, that is all He asks. He will bring the increase. Just keep being faithful.

Rejoice!

Sometimes it’s good to look back down
We’ve come so far; we’ve gained such ground
But joy is not in where we’ve been
Joy is who’s waiting at the end

As I sat down to write this afternoon, these lyrics came to mind (taken from the song “Run After God With All Your Heart”). In my case, I am looking back to where my health was from January to April of this year, and I am thanking God for how far He has brought me. It’s easy to still be discouraged when I think that I’m not where I want to be yet, but why would I complain when God is continuing to do a work in my life?

Nobody likes to be around someone who is always down, and I imagine that is true for God as well. As long as everything is going well, we are full of praise and adoration for Him, but when something happens that we don’t like, we grumble and complain and fret. How that must make Him sad! After all, He is still as powerful as He was last week, but we very quickly lose sight of that.

I confess that I do this too often, but I pray to lift up my eyes of faith to see what God is doing instead of focusing on the negative that can cause discouragement and depression. I want to “rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

I would like to see every Believer share more praise reports than prayer requests. We have both, and I love to pray for my Brothers and Sisters, but often the needs overshadow God’s goodness. In the midst of our trials, let’s not forget to rejoice because He is good!

Things I’ve Learned

Seven or eight years ago, I went through the greatest trial of my life so far. My life has not always been easy, but looking back at most of the difficult times, I can see how God used them in some way in spite of how hard it was to go through them. This last trial, I still cannot see any good that came out of it, and I possibly never will. I can say, though, that God is still faithful. Although He felt distant at times, He kept holding my hand and, eventually, I was able to smile again. He also has opened doors for me that I would not have walked through had I not gone through that. Hmm. Maybe something good came out of it after all.

People like to quote Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.” The key words are “for them that love God.” Sometimes bad things happen because of people’s selfishness or fleshly desires. God is not obligated to bring anything good out of these situations. He may do so, but He may not.

Too many treat God like a genie. When they need something, they call on Him. When everything is going well, they ignore Him. When things aren’t going as they’d like and He doesn’t answer how they wish, they get mad at Him. How this must grieve Him!

I turned 45 earlier this month. That may seem young to some of you and old to others, but I think of it as somewhere in between. I know I have a lot to learn yet, but I have learned a few things in my relatively short time here on earth. The one thing I cling to in the good and the bad times is that God is faithful. People are not always, but God is.

As long as there is breath, there is hope. The fact that I am alive proves that God still has a work for me to do, and I know that is the same for you as well. When troubles come, you may want to shut down and give up. That is the worst thing you could do. Give your burden to the Lord. Let Him carry it while you continue doing the work that God has called you to do.

I hope this encourages you, as that is my intent. “In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; [Christ has] overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Are You Ready to Die?

And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24).

How easy it is in today’s society to declare, “I am a Christian,” but how hard it can be to walk the walk sometimes. “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die,” said Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I expect many people are as afraid to die to their flesh as they are for their flesh to die.

This evening, my Walk of Repentance Bible study focused on Galatians 5:16-26. So much is contained in those eleven verses which start with, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (v. 16, emphasis added). It goes on to list the lusts of the flesh versus the fruits of the Spirit. It’s sobering to compare the two lists and ask yourself, “In which category do I exhibit the most traits?” When you compare yourself with others, it’s easy to feel good about yourself but, when you look into the mirror of God’s Word, that is when you see what you are really like without His Spirit. It is not a pretty sight.

One of the things Steve Gallagher mentioned in this study was, “If we attempt to obey the Law outside of the Spirit, we will soon find ourselves becoming hard-hearted, self-righteous, and contemptuous of others.” So the answer is not just doing good. Therefore, the question is, How do I become filled with the Spirit?

This is not something one can conjure or “will” into existence. Instead, you must surrender every part of yourself to Christ. You must turn off the entertainment and spend more time with Him. You must study His Word to learn what He desires of you, and then do it. Let Christ chip away every bit of stone around your heart so that His Spirit can fill in the gaps. As this happens, your desires will change so that you want to do the right things for the right reasons.

As I mentioned in the beginning, dying to self is not an easy process, but this death is the only one that will bring everlasting life.

Are You Starving?

As I was doing my Bible study last evening, Romans 1:28 jumped out at me:

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.

Matthew 5: 6 says:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.

If you are not hungering and thirsting for God and His righteousness, if you do not long for it as though you were starving, may I submit that you may very easily fall into the category of those who do not like to retain God in their knowledge? These people are “filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness,” among other things (Romans 1:29). If you are reading this, I’m guessing you would not put yourself into one of those categories, but if you are not actively seeking God, spending time with Him, studying His Word, you may very easily find yourself falling into an alternate lifestyle and then wondering how you got there.

In Matthew 12:30, Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me.” You cannot serve God and the world. I see so many who act like they can have all this and Jesus too, but we serve a jealous God. He wants our full devotion. He does not want to compete with the plethora of entertainment that we have today.

D.L. Moody is quoted as saying:

The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.

If you never have time to read God’s Word or spend quality time in prayer, I challenge you to examine your heart and ask yourself why. I understand there are busy days and busy seasons, but there should not be busy lifestyles that keep us from doing the most important things. Most of us do not forget to eat or drink, at least not usually the whole day. If you have time to do that, you can find time for God. Download a Bible app and read while you eat if you need to, but make sure that you are getting God’s Word into your heart so that you don’t sin against Him (Psalm 119:11).

This hit me in a new way last night, and I am asking God for help to make the time to draw near to Him, to continually learn of Him, to listen to Him. If you and I are too busy to do those things, we are simply too busy.

Someone Like Me

I wonder if a person can truly be converted if she doesn’t understand how truly vile she is without God. Is this why many who grow up in church look the part a long time before they realize they are not truly saved? We like singing songs like, “I am so glad that Jesus loves me” as we subconciously think, After all, how could He not?

I know how easy it is to make verbal claims about “All have sinned” and “I’m a sinner saved by grace” while mentally going down the list of sins and thinking that I must be okay since I don’t do these things, all the while forgetting one of the worst sins–pride.

If you think about it, pride is probably the root of every other sin there is. If you kill someone, you are not thinking about the person whose life you are taking; you are more concerned with how you will feel after that person is not around anymore. If you have an affair, you are not worried about the family you are hurting; you are preoccupied with what will bring you pleasure. If you are a glutton, you are more than likely not thinking about anything other than satisfying your cravings. Pride and selfishness are not little sins.

I would encourage you to compare yourself to Scripture instead of to other people. When you truly see yourself in the light of God’s Word, you cannot honestly think that you are OK. You might even find yourself crying out with Peter, “Lord, depart from me for I am wicked.” Once you hit that place, you will finally understand how amazing God’s grace really is and then you will be singing from your heart, “I once was lost, but now I’m found. I was blind but now I see.

 

Stand in the Breach

“And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none. Therefore I have poured out my indigation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord God” (Ezekiel 22:30-31).

I have met people who think there is no use in praying because God is going to do what He’s going to do so prayer won’t affect anything. This makes no sense to me, as there are instances in Scripture where God declared that He would perform a negative action but changed His mind when people repented, interceded, etc.

I think of the city of Nineveh which God said He would destroy. But He spared them when the people repented. (See the book of Jonah in the Bible.)

Or what about the woman in Matthew who asked Jesus to heal her daughter? Jesus acted as if he wasn’t interested until she humbly responded, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the Master’s table” (Matthew 15:27). If she had walked away muttering or even resignedly saying, “You’re right, Lord. I’m sorry to have bothered you,” I don’t think her daughter would have received the healing that this mother yearned for.

My view is that we don’t see revival because we don’t cry out for it. We don’t see more healed because we don’t ask for it. We live apathetic, Spirit-less lives, and then we blame God for not doing anything when maybe He is just waiting for someone to stand in the breach and intercede for those who cannot or will not pray for themselves.

God is not obligated to do what we want. I am not promoting a “name it, claim it” doctrine. I am, however, calling for people to fall on their knees, to get the mind of God, and to intercede for our nation, our unbelieving loved ones, those who are sick–physically, mentally, and spiritually. God hasn’t changed; people have. The hearts of many have grown cold. How low do we have to get before we begin to seek Him again?

What Happened to Revival?

It wasn’t long ago that Christians wished for revival, churches held “revival meetings,” pastors would open up the altar after services so that those who were being convicted could come forward and repent of their sins. Although there are churches that still do those things, I do not see it very much anymore. We have grown accustomed to our comfort, entertainment, a feel-good lifestyle, and we really don’t want anything to rock our boat. I get discouraged when I look around and feel like I will never see revival because the hearts of many have grown cold.

I just listened to the audio version of a book that I had read years ago titled Floods on Dry Ground. It focuses on the Hebrides Revival that took place in the late 19th and early 20th century. The stories are amazing. Often, revival began when just two or three people dedicated themselves to fervent prayer, asking God to come and save their cities. This wasn’t just, “And, Lord, if it’s Your will, would You save my neighbor?” This was crying out to God and staying on their knees until He answered. Because of their prayers, even the vilest sinners were changed by the power of God.

A while back, I could spend an hour or two with God no problem. I treasured the time and did not understand why everyone would not take that time each day. Now spending 20 minutes with Him is a chore as my mind is constantly on things I need to be doing, but I long to get back to being content to sit in His presence and hear from Him as well as presenting my petitions before His throne and knowing that He hears me.

Revival is not something that makes people feel good. It is a move of God that shows people what they are really like without Him and convicts them of their sins. They realize that no sin is small in the eyes of God and that they are worthy of judgment. They can’t think about their neighbor’s sin because their own sins are glaring. But they also know that God is faithful and just to forgive every sin so they confess them to Him and leave a different person than they were. When was the last time you have been in this kind of meeting?

If you attend a church that still focuses on holiness and repentance, thank God for it. If your church has lost that focus, intercede for the pastor and the church leaders, that they would have a greater hunger than ever before to walk with God and to challenge others to do so. Pray for a burden for your church, your community, lost souls, and then share that burden with others. You may find that you are not alone.

I think of the old song we used to sing that said, “Lord, send a revival, and let it begin with me.” That should be our continual prayer.

Willing to Be Used by God

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength
But sometimes I wonder what He can do through me

These words penned by Steven Curtis Chapman echo my sentiment most of the time. I can relate to Gideon who referred to himself as “the least in my father’s house” (Judges 6:15). I’m thankful that God does not limit Himself to using the good looking, the smart, or even the greatly talented. He simply looks for those who are willing to say, “Here am I. Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

In God’s Kingdom, there are no competitions. God simply desires faithfulness, those who will run this race called life with endurance, never stopping until we cross the finish line.

It’s easy to compare ourselves with others but Scripture tells us that is unwise (2 Corinthians 10:12). If I had every gift and talent I would like to have, I would probably be pretty proud. If I look at it that way, my limitations are a blessing.

To me, the wonder is not in the fact that God can use me but that He does. I trust He is using you as well. You may not see it but rest in it. If you are shining with the light of Jesus, people can’t help but notice. Don’t beat yourself up with how imperfect you are but get up each morning, talk to the Father, read His Word, and tell Him you are willing to be used however He would like to use you each day. Then thank Him for the work He is doing in and through you. He is so faithful!

Looking Through His Eyes

My mom used to sing a song which said:

Let me see this world, dear Lord, as though I were looking through Your eyes
A world of men who don’t want You, Lord, but a world for which You died

I’ve not heard that song for years but it comes back to me from time to time. How would I treat people differently if I could see them through God’s eyes?

I find that the people who come across as the most arrogant are often the most insecure. Those who are mean are usually very lonely. It’s easy to think they’ve done that to themselves, and I’m sure some have but I expect that some use meanness in order to keep themselves from getting hurt, which has probably happened to them in the past.

As God told Samuel, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Do you try to see into people’s hearts or do you judge them by how they appear externally?

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As you go through this week, I challenge you to bear with people. You might have an opportunity to show love to someone who is hurting but would never admit it. Don’t be so focused on yourself that you miss what God desires to do in and through you. And, even if someone is being mean to you because he or she is a mean person, this may be a good time to practice heaping “burning coals on his head” (Romans 12:20).

My goal this year is to remind all of us to walk as Jesus walked and to obey His commands. There are so many things in the Bible that are easy to lose sight of in the midst of trials and conflict. I need these reminders too so, if you see a theme running through my posts this year, that is why.

Don’t Be Offended

Years ago, I heard a testimony by a man who said that he was determined to not get offended. At the time, I thought that was an interesting goal but not one I’d ever considered. The older I get, the more I realize what a worthy goal that is. How many relationships have ceased, or at least been greatly strained, because one person became offended over something another person did or didn’t do.

I can’t say that I have mastered this but it is something that I am asking God’s help in. I find that, often, the person who caused the offense does not realize they have done so and, in this age of not wanting to offend others, the offended does not follow the Biblical principle of going to their friend to let them know they’re hurt or offended. This is so sad!

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One thing that helps me is realizing that I am not always easy to get along with either. There really is something to showing the grace to others that you would like to receive in return.If someone has offended you to the point that it is affecting your relationship, I would recommend that you go to that person and talk to them. Explain that you were offended by their actions and how you would like things to play out in the future.

If they listen and are willing to work through things, you have saved your relationship. If they aren’t, then you may need to distance but at least you did what you could. Then ask God to give you a pure heart toward that person. If you continue to let it fester, it could turn into bitterness, which may affect other relationships and will hinder your relationship with God. Pray too that God will give you an open heart if you are struggling with bitterness over a damaged relationship. Humility is the best path to pursue when striving to walk the path toward the future.

Bless Them Which Persecute You

Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.  ~Romans 12:14

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.  ~Matthew 5:5-12

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  ~Matthew 6:14-15

These are some of the verses I’ve been quoting to myself recently. It is not easy to do the right thing when others seem to hate you and want to make your life miserable and yet, in order to truly have peace and joy, one must obey these commands that Christ laid out for us.

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The other night when I was lying in bed upset about the way a person was treating my family, I began to think about the Father and how He must feel by all the people that mock Him, take His name in vain, and do everything imaginable to grieve Him. All of a sudden, my focus changed, as it put things in a new light.

I don’t think there is anything we can go through on earth that Jesus didn’t experience in some form or fashion and yet He prayed for those who crucified Him. He mourned for Jerusalem and the way they would treat His people. He died for a world that He knew would hate Him. That is the posture He wants us to have. We must rid ourselves of all pride, the “need” to be right, even the desire to justify our actions at times, and humbly go to God in the midst of difficult situations. And somehow we must find a way to pray for those who persecute us. I think, many times, they really don’t know what they’re doing. And, even if they do and their goal is to hurt you in every way they can, only God can change a heart. Retaliation will only make it worse.

As I write this, a part of me wonders if anyone else can relate to this or if I should just be writing in my journal. I’ve learned, however, that most of the time, God allows me to go through things because someone else is going through a similar situation and needs to know they’re not alone. They need encouraged to draw near to the Lord and reminded of how they need to walk in various situations. That is my prayer. No matter who is being mean to you right now, God sees and He will take care of it in His time. This is simply a time to keep growing in walking in His ways. Hold tightly to His hand and don’t deal with it in your flesh. Ask God to give you His heart for this person and to give you wisdom in dealing with the situation. I’ve no doubt that He will.

Be Faithful

Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find? The righteous who walks in his integrity—blessed are his children after him!   ~Proverbs 20:6-7.

When I was a child, I was amazed at how many adults did not keep their word. They would promise, “One day, I’ll _________” but, alas, that day never came, and I would be disappointed.

When I was a teenager, my mom hired a man to tune our piano. I enjoyed watching him, and he talked to me as he worked. In the course of conversation, I mentioned that I like southern gospel music. He told me he would take me to a concert sometime. At that time, I’d lived long enough to know people often said things they didn’t mean so I didn’t figure I would ever see him again. A short time later, however, he called and asked if he could take my brother and me to a concert. This was over 25 years ago, and I still remember his kindness. He could have gone to the concert by himself, and I would never know, and I probably wouldn’t remember him but he took time to honor his word, which still blesses me today.

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It is sad to me how many young people walk away from the Lord or never embrace Christianity, even when they have grown up in church and in Godly homes. I’ve fought to understand why, in order to be able to stop this trend. I believe a big reason for this is due to the hypocrisy they see in their parents and others in the Church. I know this is not the only reason an adult child will rebel but I expect it is the case in many situations. Young people pick up on whether people are real or phony, honest or crafty.

Even as an adult, I want to surround myself with people I can trust. I get so tired of dishonesty, backbiting, double lives, etc. I pray often that God will help me to be faithful. I want to be dependable, loyal, and trustworthy. I want to be faithful to point others to the Lord, not only in word but also by example. I believe if the world saw more faithfulness in God’s people, they would desire to know this God as well.

The Purpose of Trials

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing (James 1:2-4).

I am like everyone else. I have a hard time embracing the trials that come my way but I’ve known the Lord long enough to know that everything happens for a purpose. Most of the time, it seems like the trials in my life come to draw me closer to the Father. Even in ministry, it is easy to become so busy that one doesn’t have a lot of quality time to spend with the One they serve. Because of this, I am learning to embrace down times.

This does not mean I do not get discouraged. Boy, do I ever! But I continue to pray and to praise Him for the good things He has done. I know that He is doing a work in my life, and I find encouragement in that. I would much rather have some inconveniences now than to find myself so far from Him one day and not know what happened.

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We serve a faithful God. He is faithful in the good times and the bad times. He gives strength when I need it and, when He doesn’t, I have to trust that it is more important that I be still and rest in Him. Not always easy but vital.

Brothers and Sisters, I hope you are feeling encouraged today. No matter what you are going through, there is a purpose. God desires to draw you to Himself, to make you more like Him, to make you an even greater blessing to others. You simply have to trust and surrender to Him.

All trials are temporary. It will not rain always. Keep looking up, and I trust that you will see sunshine again. Your circumstances may not change but your outlook no doubt will.

Be Real

When I was young, it was discouraging to me how difficult it was to get close to people. Everyone would put on their best face and was always “fine” when asked how they were doing. This was not my reality but I followed suit. It seemed like no one wanted to really know what was going on in others’ lives anyway, unless it gave them something to gossip about.

The last few years, I have been encouraged by the people God has brought into my life who will be real with me. Now, being real does not mean being down and complaining all the time. If you can never testify to God’s goodness in some area, you are being no more real than those who try to convince you that everything is “fine.” Being real does, however, mean admitting when you are struggling, being willing to lend a listening ear or a helping hand to those who are down, not pretending to be someone that you are not. In the past, I have seen myself as a strong woman but sometimes I’m just not.

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I struggle with not wanting to bring people down and yet not wanting others to think I am someone I am not. I am a Sister who loves the Lord and wants to serve Him and encourage others but there are days when my focus turns to myself and I have to fight to not be discouraged or self-centered. I want my emphasis to be more on God’s goodness but I don’t ever want to be too proud that I can’t ask others for prayer or encouragement. I believe God will help me with this as I keep seeking Him.

I encourage you, my readers, to find people you can be real with and who will be real in return. It’s a lonely existence when there is no one who will help to bear your burdens.

Thoughts on Fear

I’ve been pondering lately what makes people afraid. To fear is to not trust God but the average person would not give that as a reason for their fears. I know, in my life, my biggest fears have been due to thinking God would not intervene in a bad situation. The bottom line was that I wanted what I wanted and I did not want to accept the fact that God may not give me what I wanted. (How selfish is that!)

In talking with a friend recently, I realized that fear in some people may have to do with knowing that one is not right with God. Maybe they fear God will do bad things to them because of how they are living, or maybe they’re afraid of dying because they know that they are not ready to meet Him.

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If this is the root of your fear, it is not too late to repent of your sins and ask God’s forgiveness. God did not give you that spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). He desires for you to walk in faith and victory, completely trusting Him in everything! This is not impossible.

When one knows that there is nothing hidden in their life that is displeasing to the Lord, he or she can lay down that fear and walk in complete trust, knowing that God will take care of them. Sure, disappointments will still come. We will still face financial stress, sickness, death, and a myriad of other things but we will also be able to say with Job, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him” (Job 13:15).

I am praying for strength to trust Him more than ever this year. This past few years, I’ve dealt with more fears than I remember dealing with previously, but I know in reality that nothing can happen to me that my God doesn’t allow. I am continuing to learn to rest in that. I pray that you are too.

Sin Has Consequences

“That which is has already been, and what is to be has already been; and God requires an account of what is past” (Ecclesiastes 3:15).

I feel like, in many churches, more emphasis is placed on God’s forgiveness as opposed to His holiness. I am so grateful for God’s mercy and forgiveness, but there are often still consequences to the fleshly decisions that we make. This is one reason that it is important to walk in the Spirit so that you do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).

I don’t believe that God causes bad things to happen to His people but He does allow them, and sometimes it’s to remind us that sin has a price. Like most parents, He doesn’t give children instructions to be mean; He can see what the ravages of sin looks like, and He desires to spare us those things. He didn’t tell Adam and Eve not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because He didn’t want them to taste something good; He saw the destruction and devastation that would cause, and we are still reaping the effects of that today.

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As you look at your life and see the various sins and struggles you deal with, think about the effect those sins have on others. Even if no one knows what sin(s) you struggle with, everything is naked and open to God (Hebrews 4:13) and, if you are His child, and it will not be hidden forever.

If I end up writing more about this this year, it’s because I believe it is the message of 2017. Each year brings us closer to Christ’s return. We can’t afford to ignore His call to stop what we are doing, lay down the sins that so easily beset us, and follow Him. We must encourage others to do that as well but our words will have no bearing if we are not living that self-denying life.

I am writing to myself as well. The year is still young. I want to be faithful to allow God to show me my heart and the things which displease Him and trust that, at the end of this year, I will be closer to Him than ever before as I allow Him to rid me of myself and fill me with more of His love, peace, joy, patience, gentleness, self-control, and every other attribute that reflects Him.

I dealt with some physical challenges last year, and this year is starting out rough but, if I can do nothing else, I pray for God’s help to use the down times to listen to Him, hear what He would speak, and share those words with you.